Surviving Your First Ever Night Shift

“Night shifts?!….PAH I’ve got 3 kids! Night shifts will be a doddle” says I, naively, when discussing coping with impending shift work with fellow first year student midwives. ……..

How WRONG I was!

What I had not factored in was the fact I would be expected to function through the wee small hours, not just tend to a poorly child or soothe the sobs resulting from a nightmare and then return to my slumber, but actually function! I did not function well but more of that later….initially I was bogged down with these…………

First night shift questions:

“Do you go to bed REALLY late the night before your first night shift and have a lie in on the day of your first night shift?”

“Do you have nap in the afternoon for preparation for your first night shift?”

“When do you eat? If you are awake all day then all night what & when do you eat?”

“How much sleep do you get the next day?”

“Do you nap in the 1 hour break you get in the middle of the night?”

“Does the witching hour exist?”

stressedtoo many questions!!!!

I planned to have a lie in on the morning of my first night shift…I woke up at 5am and could not return to sleep! I also did not manage a nap because my first night shift was also my first shift on a new placement so I felt too wired to sleep! I ate next to nothing (thanks to a mixture of nerves and adrenalin!) and planned to eat during the shift but then started to feel queasy (probably hunger!) so ended up going nearly 24 hours on a piece of toast, some orange juice and some liquorice! The next day I slept 2 hours then woke up disorientated and, unsurprisingly, hungry! I did not nap during my break and the witching hour was witching 2 hours from 4-6am when I felt like I was having a slight out of body experience but I guess this is different for everyone!

How I now handle my first shift on nights….

I nap! I nap like a little baby from 3-5pm if my own little cherubs are not being so noisy I can’t nap! I eat quite a high carb meal at lunchtime in a bid to encourage the impending nap then I take snacks with me for the night shift (bananas, dried fruit, nuts) and lots of liquid! I have worked out, for me, I cannot sleep in a block the day after my first night shift so I get 2 hours in the morning then another 3 hours in the afternoon-its enough for me but I know we are all different! I do NOT nap on my break because it makes me feel sick and drowsy for the rest of the shift -again we are all different and you have to find what works for you! Witching hour is still witching hour…….

witching hour

So back to the first shift! I pity the poor women who were on that ward during my first night shift! Clumsy at the best of times, tiredness and nerves just added to a cocktail of disasters….you don’t want to be the student midwife who goes to change a bed at 2am on a bay with 3 sleeping, heavily pregnant women and then trip over not only the linen trolley but a stray CTG monitor too…..I backed out of that bay of beds muttering my apologies and scarpered to the safety of the sluice room!

Oh and I also went to answer a call bell an hour later and whilst clambering around in the dark reassuring the woman that “no I don’t need the light on I can find the call bell to reset it, it’s fine thank you” to then press the wrong button and accidentally press the EMERGENCY alarm bell which set sirens going off on the ward and waking the women up AGAIN….no you don’t want to be on night shift with me!

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